Philippians 3:8-11 Resurrection Hope in Suffering (Rev. Erik Veerman)
Rev. Erik Veerman
Resurrection Hope in Suffering
Our Easter sermon text is from the book of Philippians, chapter 3, verses 8-11. You will find that on page
1166 in the provided Bibles.
As a background, the book of Philippians was written by the apostle Paul. He wrote it to the church in
Philippi. Philippi was on the northern coast of the Agean Sea. That would place it in the northeast area
of modern-day Greece. About 10 years before writing this letter, Paul had planted a church in Philippi.
That’s where Lydia had come to faith. Also, while there, he had also been severely beaten and then
briefly imprisoned. In fact, Paul likely wrote this letter from a prison – when he was in Caesarea.
The reason I’m mentioning that is one theme in Philippians is joy in all circumstances. In the lead up to
our verses this morning, Paul calls them to rejoice in the Lord. Then he lists all the temporary things that
used to give him status in the world, but which he gave up for Christ.
Let’s now read Philippians 3 verses 8-11
It is our practice to stand for our sermon text, in reverence of God’s Word. We would stand for all of our
Scripture readings but that would be a lot of ups and downs. So, consider this representative of our
reverence for the Holy Scripture.
Reading of Philippians 3:7-11
I picked these verses this morning because they deal with suffering. Last week’s massacre in Nashville
has been difficult to process. Evil and tragedy are not new. We all know that. But when they strike close
to home, it prompts questions, and it weighs on hearts. The shootings occurred at a sister church and
school in our denomination.
But if I could broaden it out, every month brings new suffering and pain, some caused by evil acts,
others caused by natural disasters, as we call them, others by accidents or disease. Besides the shooting,
in the last couple of weeks, several deadly tornadoes ripped through Mississippi and Missouri. In
February, a devastating earthquake killed tens of thousands in Turkey and Syria.
And we ask why? Why cancer? Why murder? Why catastrophes and deadly accidents?
A common question is this, “with all the evil and suffering in the world, does God even exist?”
In philosophical circles, it’s called the problem of evil. If the Christian God is so powerful and good, then
why would he allow evil and suffering in the world?
That’s an important question for all of us to consider. In countless surveys about religion over the last
10-15 years, the problem of evil has been one of the top 3 arguments against Christianity or against the
existence of God in general. It’s not new, of course. Every generation, every individual seeks an answer.
This morning, I want to address the question of evil and suffering. And I want to use these verses in
Philippians 3 as a foundation. To be sure, we don’t have time for a full answer to the question. However,
these verses give us a perspective on life, on suffering, and on the world. And they particularly focus on
the resurrection of Christ as the ultimate answer to our suffering.
My goal is not to leave you with a dry, disconnected response. No, rather, my hope is that you might
leave this morning with both an intellectual understanding of the Christian perspective on evil and
suffering as well as a personal grasp of what Jesus’ resurrection means for you.
That’s the flow of how we’ll work through this. First, a more academic response to suffering and evil but
then second, we’ll traverse down to the personal. The evil and suffering in our own lives.
The General Problem of Evil
If you were to boil down the “problem of evil” argument, it would be this:
• The Christian God of the Bible is supposed to be a good and all-powerful God.
• A morally good and all-powerful God would not allow suffering and evil to exist.
• But evil does exist.
• Therefore, Christianity cannot be true.
• In summary, Christianity and evil cannot co-exist.
Now, there are different paths we could go down in response. One of those could be the underlying
presupposition in the argument that good and evil exist. But if they exist, there must be a higher moral
being that defines good and evil. That’s one path. I don’t think that answer, even though it’s true, gets to
the question of “why.”
Another path could be the assumption about God’s nature. Yes, it’s true that Scripture speaks of God as
good, but that’s only one of many aspects of God’s nature of which the Bible speaks. That could be
another path to go down in response. Certainly, that would be a helpful discussion.
But what I believe is the most helpful response is to understand how the Bible speaks of evil and
suffering. In other words, the perspective it gives on the presence of evil and suffering, and God’s
response to evil and suffering. It’s to look at the whole picture of the Christian worldview and
understand how good and evil fit.
If we just focus in on the existence of God or just consider the seeming disconnect between God’s
goodness and the presence of evil, then we’re not really getting to the heart of the matter. We wouldn’t
see how evil and suffering fit in to the broader Biblical narrative, nor understand how suffering fits into
the Christian’s life, now and in the future.
Let’s look at Philippians 3. These verses help by giving us a perspective on suffering. They do that
through an underlying understanding of the world and our situation, but also they give God’s answer to
suffering and death.
Let’s consider three things here. Let me list them, and then we’ll go through them as the intellectual
response to evil:
• First, the presence of suffering and death
• Second, a perspective of reality beyond this world
• And third, God’s resolution to suffering and death
I’ll restate each as we go through them.
Again, number 1, the presence of suffering and death.
Nowhere in the Bible is evil, suffering, and death minimized. These verses are a great example of that.
The apostle Paul has experienced persecution, tragedy, and loss. In fact, at the point in his life when he’s
writing this, he’s been stoned, left for dead, and imprisoned multiple times, including his present
imprisonment. He bears many scars from being tortured. He speaks about his suffering, here, and he
alludes to his own future death. It’s all very real.
The presence of evil in the world goes all the way back to the beginning chapters of the Bible. Originally
the relationship between God and man was intimate and their communion was pure and untainted. But
then sin and death entered the world. Mankind, through the first man and woman, Adam and Eve,
broke communion with God by breaking his command. And from that point on, the whole world
changed. Besides death, the corruption affected all of creation. The whole world groans, as the apostle
Paul wrote in Romans 8.
But from the very moment when sin, suffering, and death entered the world, God began his plan of
redemption. That plan is being worked out all the way to a future day when, as the book of Revelation
tells us, there will be no more tears, no more suffering, no more evil, and no more death.
What I’m saying is that central to the Christian message is the reality of suffering, evil, and death in the
world. They do not disprove Christianity or the Christian God. On the contrary, those hard realities
testify to the reality of Christianity.
Second. These verses in Philippians 3 give us a perspective that goes beyond this world - beyond the
physical world of time and space. Paul makes that clear in these verses. He considers his worldly pursuits
for the sake of his fame worthless. They are all loss to him. That’s what he says. Verse 8. Paul gave them
up and suffered because of it. Why? Because there’s something greater. There’s something greater than
this life. He speaks about it in verse 11 - a resurrection from the dead. It’s an acknowledgement that this
world and all the trappings of the world are temporary. Life is fragile and we die. That theme is very
consistent throughout the Bible. The momentary afflictions of this world compared to the glory of the
life to come. The Bible speaks over and over about heaven and hell. About life beyond the grave. About
a heavenly home. As Jesus said, “in my father’s house are many rooms, I go there to prepare a place for
The difficulty is that we live in the world now. We are bound by time and space. So when we think of
evil, we are naturally disposed to think within the box of our world. Of course, it can be very
discouraging. Hope can be elusive as we see and experience the vanity of life. Yet the Scriptures speak
clearly of a hope and peace that can be experienced now because of a future life where there is no
suffering. That’s what the apostle Paul is referring to – a future resurrection to a new heavens and earth.
One, as I mentioned earlier without the burden of evil.
That brings us to the third intellectual response to the problem of evil. And that’s God’s resolution to
sin, suffering, and death.
The heart of God’s response is the resurrection of Christ. It’s why Paul says in verse 10 that he “may
know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection.”
The very hinge upon which all Christianity turns is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Why do we
say that? Because it’s through the resurrection that God reversed the trajectory of sin and suffering and
death. And God accomplished that great reversal not through a mere man, but through the God man,
Christ Jesus. The fulness of God dwelling in the fulness of man. In fact, Christ is the one through whom
God created all things, in heaven and earth. That is clear in Scripture. Hebrews 1, Colossians 1, John1.
Jesus subjected himself to torture and death at the hands of his very own creation in order to redeem
his very own creation.
Did you hear that? God triumphed over evil through evil and suffering. In the book of Acts, which is
about the New Testament church, it says that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and
foreknowledge of God,” It says he was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” But then it
says, “God raised him up.” Through the resurrection, God triumphed over evil.
And just to be sure, the resurrection of Jesus was not just the return of his body to the same physical
state before his torture and death. No, it was a resurrection to a renewed imperishable body. A physical
body which would last forever, a body through which even now he is ruling and reigning.
This is the power of the resurrection. Sin, suffering, death, and evil have ultimately been dealt with
through it. And through it, there is a guaranteed hope beyond the pain and miseries in this life.
How so? Through his resurrection, Christ has secured an imperishable resurrected life for us - one with
no pain or loss or fear or evil. Without the resurrection, there is no hope beyond this life. But, as we say,
Christ IS risen. Many, many bore testimony to his resurrection.
The death and resurrection of Christ is the Bible’s resolution to the problem of evil.
Let me recap the intellectual responses to suffering and evil:
• First, evil and suffering are real. Christianity speaks very clearly into that reality, revealing the
wicked heart of man and the effect of sin on all creation. Evil, sin, and suffering do not undermine
Christianity, but rather testify to Christianity.
• Second, the Bible speaks of life beyond our present fallen condition. We are not bound and
trapped in a corrupt world with no hope. There is life beyond this life. One that is incorruptible, free
from all evil, and death.
• And third, the resurrection is the means through which God has dealt with sin and suffering. It’s
the basis of our sure hope. That’s why the resurrection is the pivot point in all of history. Through it, God
is and will make all things right and new.
The Personal Problem of Evil
If I ended this sermon here, it would be lacking. It’s one thing to talk about evil and sin and suffering, but
it’s another to experience it. Some of you know that suffering all too well.
Amy can tell you, when we pray for our children, one of the things I pray for almost every time is for God
to protect them from evil. I think that’s what made the Nashville tragedy particularly hard for me.
Especially since the pastor of the church lost his 9-year-old daughter.
You see, we cannot merely work through these hard questions in our minds. No, dealing with evil and
suffering is very personal.
One thing is clear in Philippians 3. These matters were also very personal for the apostle Paul. Over and
over, he talks about his own pursuits… about knowing Christ and attaining that resurrection life in him.
Let me highlight what he says:
• First in verse 8, he writes about “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord.” (he
• Later in that verse, he writes about sacrificing in this life, why? He says “in order that I may gain
• He continues that in verse 9, “and be found in him”
• Verse 10, “that I may know him”
• Then he says, “that I may share in Christ’s suffering, becoming like him in his death”
• And Paul concludes in verse 11, “that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from
Let me note this. If you have been with us in our recent series through 1 John, you will be very familiar
with the word “know.” Verse 10. “that I may know him.” The original Greek goes way beyond our
modern sensibilities. In English, the word “know” focuses on an intellectual understanding. We process
information. We read words. Knowledge to us today is categorizing and knowing information. Being able
to recall the information and analyze it.
But knowledge of something or someone in the world of the New Testament times goes far deeper. To
be sure, it includes a head knowledge, that we talked about, but it also comes with an intimate personal
heart-felt belief. Truly knowing Christ. Not just knowing of him, but communing with him
That kind of intimate knowledge of Jesus is not optional. Paul is implying in these verses that we cannot
merely assent to Christianity’s answers to sin and suffering. We can’t just say that it sounds good, or just
say that its answers to evil align with the reality around us.
Rather, in order to have the hope of the resurrection in your sufferings and death, you have to know the
One who suffered and died.
To say it in another way, the power of the resurrection for you only comes through knowing Christ.
“Knowing” in the full Greek sense of verse 10.
And the way you know Christ is answered in verse 9. It’s through faith in him. It’s recognizing, as it says,
that you cannot have a righteousness of your own, but rather you need Christ’s righteousness.
Let me put it in the terms that we’ve been talking about today. You cannot save yourself from evil, from
suffering, or from death. Suffering itself does not save you. You cannot resurrect yourself. Rather, there
is only One who can… the One who himself triumphed over evil, and sin and death. To triumph with him
requires faith in him.
And when you come to know him, and the power of his resurrection, then you will share in his suffering
and his death and will share in his resurrection. That is one of the most beautiful aspects of the Christian
faith. In our grief, in the evil we experience, and in our death, in all those things, we share in Christ’s
suffering and death. When you know Christ, he ministers to you in those sufferings… because he has
gone before you in them and has triumphed over them. Your hope for a future resurrection is found in
the power of his resurrection.
It doesn’t take away the tears, the suffering, or the evil in this world now, but if you come to know him
and the power of his resurrection, then you will have that immoveable rock upon which to stand. And
you will have that future resurrection hope knowing that you will triumph in him.
A couple of weeks before his daughter was killed, pastor Chad Scruggs was preaching on Jesus raising
Lazarus. The profound moment in that story was when Jesus wept. Jesus knew that he was about to
raise Lazarus, yet he wept. Pastor Scruggs said these words as he preached, “Do you see that a strong
confidence in the end of the story does not undo or justify the absence of grief in the middle. A mature
faith adds its tears to the sadness in our world. Jesus says blessed are those who mourn… all the while
not losing confidence how that sadness will eventually be overcome in him.”
Following the passing of his daughter, Pastor Scruggs lived out that belief. He wrote, "Through tears we
trust that she is in the arms of Jesus who will raise her to life once again."
I don’t know how each of you deal with the presence of evil, sin, and suffering in the world… or its
presence in your own life.
On an intellectual level, if the problem of evil trips you up as you consider Christianity, know this: the
Bible is not silent. Rather, evil and suffering’s very presence is why Christ came and it’s why Jesus’ death
and resurrect is the linchpin of Christianity.
On a personal level, each of us experiences the corruption of the world and the heart of man, including
our own hearts. At times, it will be very painful and sad. In those moments, hope in three things.
• First, God has, himself, experienced pain and evil. God the Father gave up his son to suffer and
die. And the Son of God, Jesus, endured the evil of this world. We’re invited to share in his suffering.
• A second hope - this world is not all there is. One day, evil, sin, and suffering will all come to an
• Third, through the resurrection, God triumphed over evil. If you know Christ and the power of
his resurrection, you will share in Jesus’ triumph… along with your family and friends who also know and
believe in Christ.
May we each have the same heart and mind as the apostle Paul: faith in the risen Lord. May we have his
same confidence, comfort, and hope. If you do not know the resurrected Christ, may today be the day
that you come to know his comfort and hope.